Reports this week have stated that Burma’s Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and 20 other ministers are quitting their military posts to lead a pro-junta political party in the upcoming general election this year. Sources in Rangoon speculate that Thein Sein will lead a pro-military party, a proxy of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and that Than Shwe is grooming Thein Sein to be the next party leader. Senior military officials across Burma have begun to shed their military uniforms and change into civilian clothing as a way of perpetuating their disguised military control even under the alleged civilian government in post-election period.
The polls are a way for the crude and tactless military regime to increase its political control and legitimacy. Already 25% of the seats in Parliament are reserved for the military along with other key ministerial positions. In addition, according to the sham 2008 constitution, the military will continue to have unlimited and unchecked powers, and it will answer to no one or no institution but itself.
Meanwhile, there runs a high possibility of an all-out civil war between the armed ethnic groups and the Burmese Army. This week, the National Democratic Front, an alliance of eight armed ethnic groups, has announced it is preparing to defend itself if these increasing tensions lead to a civil war. A dozen ethnic ceasefire groups have refused to join the Burmese Army as Border Guard Force (BGF), increasing concerns over the politically volatile situation beyond Yangon. Chief of Military Affairs Security Ye Myint hinted to the ethnic leaders that failure to transform into BGF before the given deadline on April 22 could result in military action. In preparation for war, locals in the southern Shan state have begun gearing up to evacuate their homes and flee to Thailand. Shan State is home to Burma’s largest armed ethnic group, The United Wa State Army, which has over 20,000 troops. Over the weekend, pockets of fights broke out between the Burmese Army and the UWSA.
A few days ago, the New Mon State Party, based in Mon State, urged the locals in the area to evacuate their homes and move to the jungle bases. The announcements came after the NMSP flatly refused to obey the junta’s order. 0ver 400 Mon people residing near the New Mon State Party (NMSP) military base left their homes after the NMSP’s refusal to join the BGF.
The junta’s attempts to create the Border Guard Force is thought to stem from the new constitutional provision that the “Union of Myanmar” have only one army. Ethnic leaders have widely resisted the BGF order, saying they have nothing to gain from it and that they have no faith in the new constitution. Last year, 37,000 Kokang and Chinese refugees fled to China after the Burmese military overran Laogai, and almost four thousand Karen villagers fled to Thailand when Burmese-DKBA troops and the Karen National Liberation Army started fighting. To China and Thailand, regional stability is important, and the regime’s inability to maintain peace on the borders has led the neighboring countries to publicly denounce the regime.